Woody, the "fact or fiction" aspect refers specifically to whether or not secret codes were included as part of the quilts' imagery. The idea in question proposes that there were insider's symbols purposely sewn onto the quilts so that when the quilts where hung outside, folks travelling the underground railroad could interpret where the next safe house was, which direction to go, how long it might take, etc. The involvement of the quilts in this manner has not been substantiated.
What is known to be true is that often the slave owners would have slaves sew the quilts used in the plantation home, with credit given to the woman of the house - whether or not she put a single stitch on the quilt.
From: Woody Duncan [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Fri 7/2/2004 2:49 PM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: Re: Paper Quilts- Underground Railroad - Fact or fiction?
I think the paper quilt idea is great for teaching around the theme of the
underground railroad. Quilting has a long tradition in the African-American
culture. It was often used to tell stories or provide information to those
traveling north to freedom. What I don't understand is the title
"fact or fiction". I never realized anyone doubted that there once was a
system of safe houses. Around this area the railroad ran through an area
of Kansas City, Kansas known as Quindaro. Presently students from KU
are excavating the ruins there to preserve part of the history of the
underground railroad. Bloody Kansas has a rich history related to the
fight to end slavery.
Woody in KC
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